Every footstep is as it was before. Before this, this came along and attempted to make everything different. The two of them were the only two to know exactly what had happened; it was a million years they both filled with whatever they needed to. They sat at the table, and neither of them commented on how the chairs were not comfortable, and how the air conditioning was making the place so cold. They did allow that they had seen each other here on the same day a few weeks earlier. The same place, getting the same coffee.
It's not hard to smile when I'm nervous, he said to himself. My mouth is dry, everything feels like an attack. But I can smile, I can always smile. This is clearly wrong, he thought. But then he didn't know what else to do. Not smile? What kind of an impression does that give?
She nodded phatically along to any of his words, his aural evidence that this was normal, considered. That this was the same. Her cup looked so huge in her hands. Her fingers looked fragile, he thought, like if he should reach out and touch them he wouldn't actually be able to feel anything. Like they wouldn't be the same.
They talked in cycles, like friends do. There was nodding and silent, polite attention from whoever wasn't speaking at that moment. There was no interruption or correction, like friends do. Neither was confident enough for that yet. The coffee went cold long before the seats became unbearable. He kept looking at his coat and hat, wondering if he put them on before or after they would step outside; what do I normally do? She kept looking away at something not there, that was not trying to be the same. It wasn't hard for them to keep the conversation on track, avoiding that which would inevitably separate them like barbed wire between two fields. That would make its own way through.
Outside, he said he wanted to make his own way back. She shivered with a violence that frightened him at first. They went to her car, sat in the same seats as before. I have nothing to say to you. This winter had been vicious and had gotten involved. Nights had been longer and been cruel, and it's strange how no one can be prepared for what always comes. Absolutely everything stays the same.
The car pulled up outside his house, which had a welcoming face for neither of them. The snow crunched as he walked to the door, where he stood and made a joke that she didn't respond to. Always the same. He watched her drive away. The engine didn't struggle against the cold; reliable, built for it. Some things can take the weather, the harsh turns and not change. Thank god for these things. He closed the front door. The house stood silent, as it always did.
As is often the case, the family held one view, friends another.
It was here, through such subtle disparity, that the man was continued.
A son remembered him through one particular story,
A neighbor's cat was walking along their garden wall.
The son remembers the father saying something, and looking up
At his father's face but the sun was glaring down,
Making him a harsh silhouette, shrouded in screaming light.
What he said to the son,
Something about balance, or purpose of direction,
Remained with him always.
The wife didn't say much about him that day, but she didn't need to.
Everyone did the remembering for her,
And they knew this.
She was there with him all along. Her story was his.
Along with him went the need for her to explain him, what he meant.
This is normal, everybody thought.
Nobody questioned her graceful quiet.
An old work colleague talked colorfully of the two of them,
Standing at bars,
With loosened ties and battling opinions regarding
Contracts in Istanbul.
Their contribution was like a living smile,
The most insightful about him, the newest information.
It was devoured by all who heard it.
It was swiftly fused with existing memories,
A new, sudden effort to see him in yet another light
Even though he was gone.
This is normal, everybody thought.
The photographs were passed around
Like weed, like currency.
To be stared at and pointed at over
White tablecloths and dirty wine glasses,
Whilst underneath the table grandchildren in matching shirts
Flew aeroplanes and women rubbed their ankles
Beneath seldom-worn high heeled shoes.
A family member who had not touched a cigarette for five years
Now took that first amber drag
Whilst looking intently into the eyes of
The man's best friend of three decades.
This was where I would find out more, they thought,
Thinking about the nicotine as they attempted to concentrate
On the friend's disclosures.
Was he so very different to what I knew? They think,
Worried that the man they buried today
May have turned out to be a stranger.
But the cigarette helped.
As night came, most of the friends went away.
The family were left, looking so small,
Sitting with those who had travelled too far
Or drunk too much to leave that evening.
The children's aeroplanes were left pilotless under the table.
Pairs of heels left abandoned in the kitchen.
There is no need to remember anymore by this point,
And this is normal, everybody thought.
A guest's head hit the pillow,
Where, before the wine shoved them into a cloudless sleep,
They wondered if they had done him justice today.
They also began to wonder if they had done him justice in life,
But sleep prevented the torment of this.
The wife's head lay on the pillow,
Fully aware of what today meant.
She did not think of him as a memory, but as a husband,
And something she still loved with a bravery against death.
She stared at the ceiling until she slept,
Not once giving in to the temptation of looking at
The empty pillow next to her.
He would tell everyone, I only drive at night these days.
Driving at night is the last true time when a man is living for the moment.
Sure, you can plan a journey and all that,
but no one can guess what's coming next on the road.
Driving at night sharpens the immediacy of it all.
It gives a man time to think, to smile or wallow.
All passes through the window, and I cannot grasp any of it.
Letting it all fly past -
What was that?
This is good. Just keep going.
Everything is mine at night, he would continue.
Everything is with me.
I can hear the tyres on the road, obedient, rhythmic.
I can demand everything to show itself with headlights.
All becomes clear,
Under this, the same night for all beneath it.
The temperature of the car.
The car, this mobile vacuum. Protective, enlightening.
It is silent other than letting me know it is taking me
Where I need to go.
Reminding me that the road is ours, is mine.
For this journey, the road belongs to me.